On Busyness. Maple Granola.

My first instinct was to spell busyness like this: business. Then I realized that’s an entirely different word. This post is about business, the business of my life for the past few months, but business sounds very coat and tie and heels, and, well, I’ve been busy, but I haven’t been business. I’ll never be business.

Being busy. That’s where I’ve been. Busy living my life and not telling you about it. Busy testing cupcake and salad recipes for bridal showers. Busy being an editor again while being busy being a marketing director by day. Yeah, that’s right, marketing director by day, editor by night. I am a super hero. Busy running my brains out, racking up the miles, looking to 26.2 miles in November. Busy making pasta with fresh peas from my garden and drinking bourbon ginger ales. Busy cooking brats over an open flame.

Busy exploring my city like I’ve never lived here before. Busy following the signs. Busy drinking good beer, listening to good music, and watching fireworks explode in the night sky.

Busy doing all this with this guy who keeps me busy every day with thinking how lucky I am to have bumped into him in this busy sea.

Busy. Have to remember to stop and take a breath sometimes.

Take a breath and look up at the stars and the moon, dip your feet into a lake, watch relationships being built.

Enjoy a cup of coffee, or three, with the person you love while the sun shines down. Take a breath and remind yourself why you’re doing all these things that keep you so busy. This relationship, even though it requires some driving, is inspiring and makes me believe in so much again. That second job surrounds me with people who are strong and courageous in a way I am certain I could never be. They are my heroes.

The busy is worth it. Every second.

So maybe you’re busy, too. Summer can be like that. It’s a funny season. The air is hot and thick, and the days are longer. Everything points to slowing down, yet summer always seems to be full of activities, of trying to cram as much into these warm, lazy days as possible.

This summer I’ve discovered the best food: homemade granola. It’s not crunchy and granola as in you’ll be a hippy making your own granola in your oven. It is crunchy and granola as in it bakes up into clumps of sweet, oaty goodness that wants to be covered in almond milk, yogurt, fresh summer berries, and really eaten right from a jar.

Did you know that granola is ridiculously easy to make? It is, and I feel someone really mean and selfish has been withholding this beautiful knowledge from me. Granola takes one bowl, one spoon, a measuring spoon, and one baking sheet to make. It doesn’t even take measuring cups if you have a kitchen scale (and I say, get a kitchen scale, because it’ll make you love cooking even more than you already do, and it’ll make all your measurements so much more accurate. Deb convinced me with her cookbook full of ingredients in weights finally.) This granola unassumingly sits in your oven, filling your house with a cinnamon maple smell.

The hardest part will probably be finding unsweetened coconut flakes. (I found mine at Whole Foods in the baking section.) The second hardest part will be believing that you made granola that sticks together in lovely clumps. The secret is the egg white (or 3 tablespoons of water + 1 tablespoon of flaxseed if you’re the vegan type).

In between all of the rushing around I’ve been doing, I manage to always make batches of this granola. My big glass jar is always full of it. Trust me on this one.

I would like to give credit where credit is due. The food styling in these granola, yogurt, and blueberry photos was all done by my boyfriend, Karl. I got a ridiculous amount of pleasure watching him lean over the bowls and carefully sprinkle granola over yogurt and place berries on top without any guidance from me.

Crunchy Maple Granola
Straight from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Ingredients
3 cups (240 grams) old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup (50 grams) unsweetened shredded or flaked coconut
1 cup (100 grams) walnuts (or other nut of your choice), coarsely chopped
1/2 cup (25 grams) toasted wheat germ
2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (120 ml) maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 large egg white
1 1/2 cups (215 grams) dried cherries, cranberries, or other dried fruit, diced into large pieces

Preheat your oven to 300°.

Combine all ingredients but egg white and dried fruit in a large bowl, tossing to coat evenly. Whisk the egg white in a small bowl until frothy. Stir into the granola mixture, distributing it throughout.

Spread granola mixture in a single layer onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. (If you don’t have parchment paper, don’t line the baking sheet with anything. You’ll just have to do some scraping of granola bits when you wash the baking sheet.)

Bake for 45 to 55 minutes. About halfway through the baking time, use a large spatula to turn over sections of the granola as carefully as you can. (I break the big chunks up accidentally often and sometimes lose track of what I’ve flipped. It’s OK. Flip the majority as best you can.) Rotate the pan.

When the granola is evenly browned and feels dry to the touch, transfer the pan from the oven to a cooling rack. Cool completely.

Once it’s completely cool, break up granola into whatever size clusters delight you. Sprinkle in dried fruit.

This granola will keep at room temperature in an airtight container for 2 weeks. It keeps even longer in the freezer.

Almond Cake with Raspberry-Lemon Whipped Cream

Well this is a huge embarrassment. I made this wonderful cake for my wonderful mother’s birthday and I forgot to post it.

And now that summer is over, you may be all sad when you see the beautiful berries piled on top of the cake. But, don’t worry! This cake will be equally tasty minus the berries, add some other kind of fruit on top of the whipped cream, no fruit and just whipped cream, different flavored whipped cream (think vanilla, amaretto…), chocolate frosting or caramel on top…are you starting to understand the wonderfulness of this cake yet?

Birthday Momma and Pappy

OK, so back in August, my mom had a birthday. My mom likes berries, tortes, pies, coffee, things like that. Last year I made her this espresso chiffon cake with fudge frosting. Out of this world. This year I went with almond and David Lebovitz. Does FTW apply here?

So like I said, top this cake with anything really. It can even be sliced into two layers if you want to get fancy. Really the cake is the star. It’s got a rich but not overpowering almond flavor and an incredibly moist (sorry, sorry!!) crumb. Honestly, it’d probably be good all on it’s own. Just hop on past the jump and check out the recipe!

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Pie…uhm Food…Catch Up

I’ve decided on a new name for my bakery: Piebelly.

I’ve been baking like a crazy woman lately. It relieves stress, and there’s been plenty of stress in my work life lately. Chocolate chip and pecan-cranberry brown sugar cookies, strawberry rhubarb crisp, rum-soaked banana bread, hummingbird cupcakes, sugar cream pie, triple berry pie…

The triple berry pie I’m calling my best pie yet and so I’m sharing it after the jump. It’s the perfect summer berry pie: Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, though I’m sure you could easily substitute raspberries in there. I usually use flour to juice up my filling, but my aunt mentioned tapioca, so I thought I’d give it a try. Must’ve worked well, since the pie was so damn good. I also made some vanilla whipped cream, just softly whipped, to plerp on top. Delicious dessert for a few days.

In a way, this pie was also a 717 pie (the 717 being the magical yellow house that we lived in, with a fourth roommate whom we no longer speak of, in Bloomington for two years). The pie bird, a little guy with a hole in his beak that you settle in the center of your filling and then place your top crust over, was a gift from Samantha. The cheerfully purple-dotted pie dish was a gift from Marnie. Maybe that’s why it was so good!

My weekend will be filled with rhubarb thanks to Smitten Kitchen. Moist and sweet rhubarb coffee cake and little rhubarb tarts. This has most definitely been the spring of rhubarb.

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